Hayden Thomas interviews Olivier winner Katie Brayben

This week our reporter Hayden Thomas (Twitter: @WestEndReporter) caught up with the newly-crowned Olivier Award-winning 'Best Actress in a Musical' Katie Brayben, who is currently wowing audiences eight times a week as Carole King in the West End premiere of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical at the Aldwych Theatre.

Read on to find out about her memories of the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards, and sharing the stage with Carole King herself on the Opening Night of Beautiful, as well as her thoughts about Imelda Staunton's role in Gypsy, and about which other icon of the music industry she would love to portray on stage...

Hayden Thomas: First of all, many, many Congratulations on your win at the recent Olivier Awards! Best Actress in a Musical - how utterly fabulous!

Katie Brayben: Well, thank you! It's very surreal for me to hear you say that. I can't believe it. I'm still in a bit of shock about it to be honest.

HT: You had some stiff competition from the likes of Beverley Knight (Memphis), Gemma Arterton (Made in Dagenham), and Tamsin Greig (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). Were you expecting to win or was your money on someone else?

KB: No, not at all! I was just so happy to be there... and to be there with such amazing nominees. I'm a big fan of all those wonderful women. I had no idea. I didn't think I would be in the running to win it. But I suppose if you're there, it's always a possibility, but it was definitely a shock. I thought of maybe putting money on my co-stars Lorna (who plays Cynthia Weil) and Ian (Barry Mann). But I don't think I would've put money on anyone other than my mates really.

HT: Now, obviously another momentous evening was the Opening Night of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical here in London, where you got to share the stage with Carole King herself. What's your main memories of that night?

KB: It was such an honour to meet her. I didn't actually know she was there, so again I was in shock when she came on stage. I guess one of my main memories was her talking about Gerry Goffin because he passed away when we were actually auditioning for the show. She spoke very beautifully about him and that was very moving. He loved the show on Broadway. She said he would've loved it here as well. That was the main thing for me - her speaking so beautifully about Gerry.

HT: Did you get to chat to her afterwards?

KB: I did. We had a little chat and she was lovely. She's very warm and such a wonderful woman. She was very generous actually with her time talking to me about the show and I was very grateful for that.

HT: If you could be in any other bio-musical and portray a different lady, is there anyone you would like to play, either living or dead?

KB: Well I can tell you who I am a massive fan of. I'm not sure if I'd be completely the right casting for it, but I'm a huge, huge fan of Joni Mitchell. If there was ever going to be a musical about her, then I would definitely want to be involved in some way. She is another genius of that era...

HT: I could definitely see you in that. I'm surprised there hasn't been a Joni Mitchell musical already?

KB: I know! Maybe it's just not her style. I don't think she'd maybe allow it? She's not well at the moment and I can't imagine a world without her in it. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I am her biggest fan. Fingers crossed she will make a full recovery.

HT: Do you get much time off during the day? What do you get up to when you're not on stage?

KB: Well, I actually just went to see Gypsy now. I've literallly just come out and that was incredible! Imelda Staunton is phenomenal in such a powerful performance! So I do get to go and see a matinee every now and again. But my rehearsals are less and less, apart from maybe rehearsing covers in and things like that. We're fully up and running now.

HT: I think Imelda may get the same Olivier Award (Best Actress in a Musical) as you next year...

KB: I think she deserves it. It's such an incredible performance. She definitely deseves an award for that.

HT: I even read on Twitter today that 'the Savoy Theatre has been deemed structurally unsafe because Imelda Staunton is blowing the roof off it every night!'

KB: (Laughs) That's very funny. I like that. She's so powerful and yet so fragile at the same time. It's brilliant!

HT: But back to you, Katie. So this isn't your first time on the West End stage. Apart from Beautiful, I was wondering which has been your favourite show up to now?

KB: I just finished 'King Charles III,' which won Best New Play at the Olivier Awards. I suppose that's a very recent memory for me. I just absolutely loved it. The cast were amazing and the play is so brilliantly witty and perfectly timed, I thought. So I'd say 'King Charles III' was a wonderful experience.

HT: And now the play's transferring to Broadway this year! And what's next on the cards for you? Are you sticking with Beautiful for the foreseeable?

KB: I think my contract is up in November, so as far as I know I'll be in it until November and I'm looking forward to carrying on with the show because it's such a great show to do.

HT: In your opinion, what makes Beautiful such a great show?

KB: I think not only is it hit after a hit and it really is an incredible catalogue of songs - not just from Carole and Gerry, but also from Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann - but it's also a very inspirational story with a real heart to it and I think that is what really speaks to people.

HT: Thank you so much, Katie, for taking the time to talk to us.

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical is currently booking through to 13 February 2016 at the Aldwych Theatre.

- Edited by Tom Millward

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